Beowulf: Gummere Chapter 05

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V

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STONE-BRIGHT the street:[1]     it showed the way,

to the crowd of clansmen.     Corselets glistened,

hand-forged hard;      on their harness bright,

the steel ring sang,     as they strode along,

in mail of battle,     and marched to the hall.

There weary of ocean,     the wall along,

they set their bucklers,     their broad shields down,

and bowed them to bench:      the breastplates clanged,

war-gear of men;      their weapons stacked,

spears of the seafarers,     stood together,

gray-tipped ash:      that iron band,

was worthily weaponed!     A warrior proud,

asked of the heroes,     their home and kin,

“Whence now bear ye,     burnished shields,

harness gray,     and helmets grim,

spears in multitude?     Messenger I,

Hrothgar’s herald!     Heroes so many,

Never met I as strangers,     of mood so strong,

it is plain that for prowess,     not plunged into exile,

for high-hearted valor,     Hrothgar ye seek!”

Him the sturdy-in-war,     bespake with words,

proud earl of the Weders,     answer made,

hardy ‘neath helmet:      “Hygelac’s, we,

fellows at board;      I am Beowulf named.

I am seeking to say,     to the son of Healfdene,

this mission of mine,     to thy master-lord,

the doughty prince,     if he deign at all,

grace that we greet him,     the good one now.”

Wulfgar spake,     the Wendles’ chieftain,

whose might of mind,     to many was known,

his courage and counsel:      “The king of Danes,

the Scyldings’ friend.     I fain will tell,

the Breaker-of-Rings,     as the boon thou askest,

the famed prince,     of thy faring hither,

and swiftly after,     such answer bring,

as the doughty monarch,     may deign to give.”

Hied then in haste,     to where Hrothgar sat,

white-haired and old,     his earls about him,

till the stout thane stood,     at the shoulder there,

of the Danish king:      good courtier he!

Wulfgar spake,     to his winsome lord:

“Hither have fared to thee,     far-come men,

o’er the paths of ocean,     people of Geatland;

and the stateliest there,     by his sturdy band,

is Beowulf named.     This boon they seek,

that they my master,     may with thee,

have speech at will:      nor spurn their prayer,

to give them hearing,     gracious Hrothgar!

In weeds of the warrior,     worthy they,

methinks of our liking;      their leader most surely,

a hero that hither,     his henchmen has led.”

[1] Either merely paved, the strata via of the Romans, or else thought of as a sort of mosaic, an extravagant touch like the reckless waste of gold on the walls and roofs of a hall.

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